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    Hurricane Dorian: Pleas for help as storm stalls over Bahamas

    September 03, 2019

    Residents of the northern Bahamas, some trapped on the roofs of homes, have sent out pleas for help after Hurricane Dorian stalled over the area.Dorian fell in strength on Tuesday to category three, but Grand Bahama island faced at least another day of heavy rain, high winds and storm surges.The storm killed at least five people when it hit the Abaco Islands at category five with 185mph winds.The eastern US coast remains on alert for Dorian to move in that direction.
    The most recent update from the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) placed Dorian just north of Grand Bahama, home to about 50,000 people, having moved barely 20km (12 miles) in a day.The NHC described Dorian as "stationary" with maximum sustained winds of 120mph (195km/h, marking it as a category three on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.But the NHC warned that the storm was still producing higher gusts and storm surges 10ft-15ft (3m to 4.5m) above normal, and the agency advised residents to remain in shelter on Grand Bahama throughout Tuesday.
    The winds at the core of the storm were spinning so fast that the centre of the storm was collapsing on itself, causing it to expand and damage a larger area, according to the BBC Weather service.Steve McAndrew, of the International Red Cross, told the BBC he had been involved in rescue operations for 20 years and could not recall a hurricane ever being listed as stationary.Palm Beach county in Florida - less than 100 miles to the west - saw gusts of up to 60mph on Tuesday.
    How is Grand Bahama faring?Eyewitness videos and reports painted a picture of massive and widespread flooding, with panicked families fleeing to their roofs to escape rising floodwaters.The Bahamas Press showed video of the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport under water, with patients forced to evacuate. The news site also relayed calls for help from residents trapped on roofs for hours.
    Freeport resident Yasmin Rigby told the Reuters agency: "People who thought they were safe are now calling for help".A map from the Finnish satellite company ICEYE showed the extent of the flooding on the island:Grand Bahama's international airport was under 6ft of water, while residents posting on Twitter said a church in Freeport had lost its roof and scores of people were in danger.Another Twitter posting called for the rescue of an aunt and nine others from rising waters in the town.Video posted on Twitter from Pine Bay showed the extent of the storm there.
    Journalist Kyle Walkine tweeted that he was in a three-storey building "believed to be one of the strongest in Freeport, and it is shaking. But Dorian doesn't want to move".Clint Watson, a journalist based in the capital Nassau, said people in Grand Bahama were being hit with "buckets of rain" and posting videos online showing water rising to the windows of their attics."You can't fathom that but that's what people are showing us with their videos," he told the BBC. "And you can see the water outside pressing in. It's stories like that and images like that that you can't get out of your mind."One radio station told the Associated Press news agency it had received more than 2,000 distress messages.
    What about the rest of the Bahamas?The picture was clearer on the Abaco Islands after Dorian moved further west. The islands, with a population of about 17,000, bore the brunt of the storm. No hurricane had ever made landfall with greater wind speeds. Only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane can match Dorian's 185mph.In addition to the five killed there, another 21 injured were airlifted to the capital Nassau by the US Coast Guard.Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said on Monday that reports from the Abaco Islands suggested the devastation was "unprecedented", calling the hurricane a "historic tragedy".Rescue operations were reportedly underway in areas it was safe to enter.
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    Neither the Abacos nor Grand Bahama are much higher than 40ft above sea level at their highest points. The International Red Cross said it feared wells may have flooded, making clean water unavailable. The organisation said 13,000 houses were feared damaged or destroyed across the nation.Images from the capital Nassau to the south showed extensive flooding. Matthew Cochrance, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said aid workers were expecting "significant humanitarian needs" in the Bahamas once the storm passed.
    People injured in the Abaco Islands are evacuated to NassauThe latest update from the NHC predicts Dorian will begin a slow north-west move on Tuesday, with a further turn north on Wednesday."The hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late [Tuesday] through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina coast late Thursday," it said.Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency and there were mandatory evacuation orders across many areas.Is climate change making hurricanes worse?
    Scientists cannot say whether climate change is increasing the number of hurricanes, but the ones that do happen are likely to be more powerful and more destructive because of our warming climate, said BBC Weather's Tomasz Schafernaker.Here's why:An increase in sea surface temperatures strengthens the wind speeds within storms and also raises the amount of precipitation a hurricane will dumpSea levels are expected to increase by one to four feet over the next century, bringing the potential of far worse damage from sea surges and coastal flooding during storms
    Hurricane Dorian: Who's at risk?
    Hurricane Dorian is continuing to batter the Bahamas - and appears to have virtually stalled over the islands.The slow-moving hurricane is the most powerful storm to hit the Bahamas since records began, bringing sustained winds of up to 165mph (270km/h) and the risk of storm surges of up to 23ft (seven metres).It has now been downgraded from the highest, category five level, to category three, but officials warn of catastrophic winds and the risk of life-threatening floods.At least five people are reported to have been killed by the storm in the Abaco Islands, in the northern Bahamas.The US states of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina have all issued states of emergency as Dorian edges west.
    Where has been hit?Dorian made landfall on Sunday (1 Sept) and has since moved only a very few miles across Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands in the north of the Bahamas archipelago.High winds, heavy rain and flooding seawater are reported to have caused major damage to homes and property on the islands.The National Hurricane Center described Dorian as "stationary" with maximum sustained winds of 125mph (205km/h), marking it as a category three on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.The total number of casualties is not clear as the emergency services have yet to reach some areas.The Red Cross fears some 13,000 homes have been severely damaged or destroyed by the storm.Many people in Grand Bahama have been forced to flee to the roofs of their homes to escape the rising floodwaters.
    Storm surges could be devastating The biggest danger to life and property in Grand Bahama could be from storm surges, which are predicted to be as high as 23ft above normal tide levels - with higher destructive waves. Storm surges are caused when huge volumes of water are pushed by hurricane-force winds. When they meet land, the water surges inshore at levels far exceeding normal tides.The eastern US states are also bracing for possible storm surges.
    Where is it heading?Meteorologists are watching the track of Dorian, trying to predict how close it will come to the United States coastline. As Dorian batters Grand Bahama, it sits only 120 miles (190km) from West Palm Beach, Florida.But even if the eye of the storm does not make US landfall, tropical storm and hurricane-strength winds could still blast Florida and Georgia within days.Evacuations have been ordered in some coastal communities of South Carolina and Georgia.Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the strength of the storm could not be underestimated."This storm at this magnitude could really cause massive destruction. Do not put your life in jeopardy by staying behind when you have a chance to get out," he said, urging people to observe evacuation orders when they were issued.
    Dorian's strength At category five, Dorian was the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, with some gusts reaching 200mph (321km/h). It is the fifth Atlantic hurricane to reach the highest category in the last four years.Hurricane Irma in 2017 was also category five and causing widespread damage across the Leeward Islands, Caribbean and Florida keys, damaging roads, buildings, airports and harbours.Grand Bahama was also hit by category five Hurricane Matthew in 2016 - many residents had yet to fully rebuild their houses before Dorian's arrival.
    How hurricanes happen
    Bahamas residents share images of devastation
    Damage is thought to be particularly bad on the island of Great Abaco
    As the Bahamas were hit by the most powerful storm to hit the archipelago since records began, a wave of power cuts and internet outages made getting information from the storm-hit areas difficult.But as the main force of the hurricane passed, video showing the damage sprang up online.Latrae Rahming, once press secretary to former Prime Minister Perry Christie, has been collating some of the videos shared by residents, particularly on the island of Great Abaco.

     

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